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   World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade - Review  

Further Up and In
by Anna Marie Neufeld

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Medium
COMPLETION TIME
100-500 Hours
OVERALL

3.5/5

Rating definitions 

   Recipe for success: Take one wildly successful MMORPG; add facets of previously successful games from the same developer; throw in secrecy and tightly coiled anticipation. Stir briskly, serve warm and by the millions. By the time World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade was in the hands of Warcraft fans, over 8 million players had already been sucked into the world of fantasy and that number has continued to grow since the release. This review assumes that the reader has some basic understanding of the original World of Warcraft game and concentrates on additions and changes that are made or impacted by the expansion specifically. For those that need a refresher, a review for the original game can be found here by the same author.

   The largest change to the battle system is new talent trees that were introduced into the game just before the expansion was available. Players are now able to level from 60 to 70, and will gain ten extra talent points. New skills are available each level past sixty, rather than every other level as was the case prior to the expansion. With two new tiers to the talent trees, characters now spend 41 talent points to obtain the final talent for each tree. Each tree also went through a major overhaul, with as many as a dozen new talents per class across the three trees. These new talents add a greater specialization to each build and further sets apart each talent tree as unique. With this deeper specialization comes new roles to fill - post 60 dungeons now support and in some cases expect a variety of talent trees. Shadow priests, once mocked as useless in dungeons are now an important part of many raid groups. The druid Moonkin form has been completely overhauled and is no longer quite as mana intensive. Paladins can actually tank, rather than simply pretend the protection tree did anything past Blessings of Kings. If nothing else, The Burning Crusade has allowed diversity that did not exist before the expansion, but it offers much more than that. With seven new zones for adventurers 58 and above, there's plenty for the solo adventurer to explore; the previous home of the Orcs has now been shattered, with only a small land mass remaining that has been dubbed the "Outland". Those more interested in grouping with friends will find thirteen new five-man dungeons available to plunder. That doesn't even count the 10-man Karazhan, and six new 25-man dungeons for those interested in larger raids, with more promised later. If that wasn't enough, all of the five-man dungeons can be set to "Heroic" mode, creating a tougher version of the previous dungeon where monsters hit harder and are often immune to effects that would previously remove them temporarily from the battle.

BE Blood Elf Starting Zone

   The crafting system has also moved forward; characters level 50 and above can now learn "Master" level trade professions, with the new maximum being 375. Newly crafted items will be appropriate for characters above 60 to craft, wear or consume. New herbs are available for herbalists to pick, alchemists to brew; new hides for skinners to farm and leatherworkers to work with; and new cloth drops from mobs that tailors can stitch new outfits with. Miners can look forward to three new types of ore with which they can create a dozen new types of bars for blacksmiths, engineers and jewelcrafters to use. Jewelcrafting is the new profession that The Burning Crusade offers industrious players. Lower level offerings include rings and necklaces, as well as some trinkets, but the craft truly shines past 300. Once a jewelcrafter has reached 300 skill, they can begin to cut gems available in Outland to place into socketed items. Found in dungeons, as quest rewards, and as craftable items, socketed equipment allow for customization based upon the player's preference. Each such piece comes with one to three sockets either red, blue or yellow in color. Placing gems that match these colors will also activate a small additional socket bonus. Gems come in six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple; secondary color gems match both of the primary colors they contain, so an orange gem would suit either a red or a yellow socket. Enchants can be added on top of any gems socketed into an item, making equipment both fluid and powerful.

   Two new races have joined the fray, and each brings a rebalancing of both horde and alliance forces. The Draenei, who once lived peacefully on Draenor with the Orcs join the side of the Alliance and bring with them the ability to become Shamans, previously available only to the Horde. They have a new starting area that if a player chooses will easily take them to level 22, before they can move onto regular zones. The Blood Elves, hurting from the fall of their society after being nearly snuffed out by the Scourge now ally themselves with the Horde. These graceful elves can take up arms as a Paladin, previously restricted to the Alliance. Blood Elves, as an interesting note, are the only race which cannot be warriors. Also added were flying mounts, attainable at level 70. The first flying mount a player obtains (skill 225) allows a player to fly at 160% speed; epic flying (skill 300) will allow players to obtain a flying mount that zips along at 380% speed.

   Lastly, new factions have been added that deal with both Outland and the Old World. Some factions are available to both the Alliance and the Horde, such as Lower City while others are available only to their specific side - Honor Hold is the Alliance faction in Hellfire Peninsula, while Thrallmar is the home for the Horde on the other side of the Dark Portal. There is very little added to the interface between the original game and The Burning Crusade aside from a new map showing the additional zones in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, as well as adding a map to Outland. The exception to this was how Blizzard allowed add-ons to interact with different scripts in the game, though this does not affect the expansion specifically. Also introduced as of Patch 2.1 is the concept of Daily Quests, which are associated with specific factions; these factions generally only give rewards at Exalted, such as The Netherwing faction, composed of Netherdrakes. It should be noted that the aforementioned zones, characters, quests and abilities are only available to players who have installed the expansion.

   There is plenty of new music available in all newly introduced zones, and a variety of new tunes will please the player's ears; some zones even have multiple sets of music depending on where in the zone the player stands. There is even a quest available to the Blood Elves and those that choose to make the trip to their starting zone, where the quest rewards is a beautiful, haunting song sung by the leader of the Forsaken. These new songs were available in a soundtrack in the collector's edition, but the player need only wander to these zones to enjoy the new tunes provided. While no overall graphical upgrade was available, much like music the visuals have been given a significant addition. Each Outland zone is unique, and bears little resemblence to any zone in the old world with the exception of the zones closest to the Dark Portal, Hellfire Peninsula and the Blasted Lands. Overall the game's presentation meets expectations, but Blizzard has always been able to add that little extra kick.

   The difficulty between the original WoW and the expansion is a mixed bag. With a greater emphasis on small raids (five and ten man groups, as opposed to 40), teams entering dungeons need to communicate and be ready to handle a variety of different mobs; unlike old dungeons which were invariably only one to two types of mobs -- undead and human being a typical combination -- Outland dungeons can consist of beasts, elementals, humanoids, and more in one instance.
ND Majectic Netherdrake Over Hellfire
This means that crowd control that may not have been previously considered useful now becomes important, such as the Warlock's Banish ability. The jaunt from 60 to 70 also has large amounts of experience to obtain from one level to the next, making pure grinding no longer time efficient as it was prior to 60; instead, players will generally find quests and instances to be a far faster levelling experience as well as more rewarding thanks to judicious faction reputation. Five different Outland factions sells a key, available at Revered, to unlock the Heroic version of each five-man dungeon. These dungeons, tailored for level 70's with fairly good gear and excellent coordination, are one of the more challenging experiences a player will have once they reach the level cap. Due to the large variety of goals to accomplish at 70, let alone simply getting to 70, a player can expect their Burning experience to last several hundred hours as most of the content is repeatable as often as the player pleases.

   The inclusion of the former home world of the Orcs and Draenei meant that Blizzard could pull in large amounts of mythos from previous Warcraft titles, especially II and III. In fact, thanks to Draenor being shattered by the opening of too many portals, it is entirely likely that there is more than one section of the world left, leaving potential future content in the Outland open. The story gives players a lot more room to explore and wonder about, while still leaving plenty of room for growth. The originality of the expansion is overall quite high, as the new areas to explore are unlike what most players have already seen; even better is the game is still open to plenty of growth for future patches as well as additional expansions.

   The Burning Crusade takes into account what the game did right and wrong and manages to avoid the wrong while emphasing the right. It won't bring in many players that weren't swayed by the core game but will definitely add on to the experience dedicated players have, and may even entice those who quit to come back to experience the World of Warcraft all over again, as the additional content does not limit even end-game players as it previously did, requiring far less time and hardcore dedication to gain significant reward and personal satisfaction.

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